US to sanction Houthis: ‘They don’t care a whit about Palestinians — it’s terrorism’

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby acknowledges that Houthi attacks on international shipping routes in the Red Sea are having an impact, as he announces a new batch of sanctions against the Iran-backed rebels.

“They don’t grab the headlines that they used to grab, but they’re having an impact,” Kirby says during a press briefing, referring to the Houthi attacks, which the rebel group says are targeting Israel-linked ships in solidarity with the Palestinians amid the war against Hamas in Gaza.

Kirby points to recent attacks that ended up targeting ships that had no ties to Israel and that led to innocents being injured and killed.

He notes that the Houthi attacks have obstructed humanitarian aid routes to Sudan and Yemen. “They impact commerce for every neighboring country in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East.”

“The Houthi claim of supporting Gazans is meritless,” Kirby says, adding that maritime aid routes to Gaza directly from Israel are moving forward regardless.

“We are in the process of moving thousands of pallets from Ashdod [Port] into Gaza as we speak,” the White House spokesperson says, highlighting that the US is the world’s largest donor of humanitarian aid for Palestinians.

Kirby adds that the US Treasury Department will be announcing new sanction designations later today against individuals and entities that are involved in the Houthi weapons procurement network.

“We will continue to target threats to international commerce when necessary, including taking another strike as we did just last night against an unmanned aerial vehicle that posed a direct threat to ships in the area.”

The Houthis “talk a mighty good game, but… They don’t care a whit about Palestinians in Gaza, and this isn’t some principled stand they’re taking. It’s terrorism… and it has to stop,” Kirby says.

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